Blogging has a lot of untapped potential as a communications and discussions tool within organizations, though it does require some planning and focus to do well.
For many companies, blogs have become part of the corporate communications toolkit. They're easy to set up, and often used like a newsletter. But blogs are typically used for outward-facing communications, and have a lot of unexplored potential and value for internal communications as well.
Every project has a story
Writing for an internal audience, blogs can be used for a near-endless variety of topics. Everything from administrative information, like vacation policy, to educational material, like the feature changes in an upcoming product release, to social events, like the holiday party.
Blogs can also follow events on a timeline. For example, during a product release lifecycle, you could use a blog with posts about:
- outlining concepts of the planned roadmap for a product update
- development milestones
- UI evolution
- marketing campaign planning
- launch plans
- distillation of the launch post-mortem discussions.
The tools are easier to use than ever
These days most blogging platforms look pretty much like your favourite word processing programs. If you can type, click, and drag and drop, you can write blog posts with images and video, embedded content, or links to additional material. You can even embed surveys or polls.
Keeping familiar processes around helps lower the barrier to entry, even for people reticent about adopting new technology. Igloo offers email-enabled blog channels, you can post an article as simply as sending an email. Just type it up in your favourite email client and send to your blog's email address. Voila, blog post! Some blog applications, like Igloo's, can send notifications when new posts are added, enabling you to comment on a post simply by replying to the email. Same goes for replying to comments. Real-time engagement even if you're not at your desk.
For companies with email overload, blogs are great for keeping employees up to date, and being more visible than yet another email. Company news, regulatory changes, new business wins, customer stories, industry news, even office building maintenance: all important things for people to be aware of. And with flexible notification and subscription options, team members can consume the information in the format and volume that suits them best.
Blogs are also effective in providing audit trails, since all the relevant information, and the dates on which it was published (and viewed), are in one place. Ensure everyone has access to the latest information. No more, "I didn't get the memo".
At first glance it might seem that popular consumer blogging tools like WordPress are adequate for internal blogging. However, organizations typically have greater and more sophisticated needs for permissions management, moderation, co-authoring, and other considerations. How employees need to blog is as important a consideration as what to blog when selecting a vendor.
Blogs can also be just as useful for gathering information as for disseminating it. Start conversations, get access to additional information, and iterate on ideas. You can do these things either before publication by adding multiple authors or reviewers while writing an article, or after publication in the comments and replies.
Collaborating on blog posts (with team members or stakeholders in other departments) can be a great partnership for a few reasons. Most obviously, it cuts down on the work one person needs to do, and lends an extra pair of eyes to review the content. It's also valuable for introducing an additional perspective. The co-author can provide "What this means for..." information for a broader audience.
Keep content relevant
While blog posts can seem ephemeral, especially on a high-volume site, this doesn't have to be the case. In fact, blog posts can be an important part of a company's knowledge ecosystem. Not all content needs to be evergreen (relevant for a very long time). But by using relevant keywords, tools like labels and archiving poicies, and publishing to specific channels, you make it easy for co-workers to find everything they need easily in the future.
A series of blog posts or a short-term blog channel can be a great way to keep all the interesting and relevant information together for a specific initiative. The aforementioned full project timeline is one example, but it works on a smaller scale, too. For example: an upcoming event, marketing campaign, or acquisition integration. You can combine timely, relevant information with behind-the-scenes tidbits, feedback requests, or adding your attendees or customers' stories to the mix.
Learn from your analytics
Blog metrics are also an invaluable tool, both to learn about how the content is performing with your readership, and the readers themselves. By analyzing views, visits, comments, ratings, etc. you can see what content, formats, and even authors resonate best with the readers. This can be invaluable information for content strategy.
Igloo offers built-in social analytics that help you learn who in your organization is creating, consuming, and engaging with the content. Identify your best champions and the folks who still need some more prodding. Find out what topics people can't get enough of and who your internally famous authors are.
Internal blogs are also a great way to showcase employees' efforts, share expertise, and build community within your company. Sometimes, the content or formats that prove the most popular will end up surprising you. And it can save you a fair bit of exploratory work. Do people love lists but hate long-format posts? Now you know how to blog certain important information in the future. Or do you get many more - and longer - visits on posts with videos? Sounds like it's time to get a little more Hollywood. Plus, if you're just getting started, your internal audience is likely a bit more forgiving if production isn't quite so polished just yet.
Managing the conversation
Now, as great as it is to get employee voices out there, you do need to remain cognizant of whose voices they are. While it would be great to get people from all over the company blogging, that's easier said than done. Some teams will embrace it, for others it will be like pulling teeth. And for others the legal or privacy implications may be a deciding roadblock.
You can't force people to blog. You can invite, train, suggest topics, seed content, etc., but ultimately they have to do the work. And that's okay. Engaged bloggers are more likely to result in an engaged readership. Find topics of interest to your bloggers and have them start there. It will help build success and momentum, encouraging them to continue blogging.
At the same time, you may find yourself with bloggers who are a bit too engaged. You may know them as "squeaky wheels." Now, just being a prolific communicator isn't a bad thing, but commonly people with lots to say also have a fairly strong agenda. Make sure that you're not ending up with a very few loud voices (and viewpoints) appearing to speak for the whole company to the whole company. Of course, using a platform that offers post and comment moderation and customized notification settings, this can be managed effectively on both the publishing and reading sides.
Given new writers incentive
For the author, blogging is a fantastic form of career building. It's a form of networking, sharing your personality, expertise, and thought leadership with a potentially large number of people across the company. It's also a form of portfolio, gathering plenty of examples of your writing, your style, and your expertise in one place. A side benefit is that your content archive will demonstrate your evolution as a writer and an industry professional over time.
For the reader, this can help find someone in your organization to help with a project that requires their specific skill set. With large companies that have many offices, it helps bring personality to the people you're working with, especially if you don't see them in person.
We'd love to think that everything we have to communicate about our work is scintillating. But it's important to remember that eternal driver of human (especially business) motivation: what's in it for me? That goes for what you blog about, too. Who are your internal "customers" that you're trying to reach? What keeps your audience up at night? What do new hires struggle to find out? What are important lessons learned from big projects? Pay attention to metrics as well, and with which content people are really engaging. Actions often tell you the most accurate story.
Content requires strategy
Keep in mind why you're blogging. An internal corporate blog needs just as much focus and content strategy as an external one. What are you trying to accomplish? Better internal communications? More comprehensive knowledge management? Higher profile for your team? A variety of topics and formats are a good idea, but always keep the big goals in sight.
Some content strategy resources that may help:
Blogs can be an incredibly useful and flexible tool to share with and engage co-workers on your team and across the company. The barrier to entry is almost non-existent, the potential topics to address are near-endless, so with a little planning why not give it a try and add your voice.